“Join me in raising your hands as we worship the Lord.”

My eyes darted from one corner of the room to another and then back to my own table. Wondering if I was the only one feeling an increased heartbeat and slight shortness of breath, I nervously freed my hands from my pockets. Is everyone really going to raise their hands?


Every time I’m in a worship service and the song leader suggests we raise our hands in praise (or surrender or acceptance or whatever the virtue of the day may be), I cringe. I get a little sweaty and my mind starts racing.

What is wrong with you? Why can’t you raise your hands?
I know. I should raise my hands. I want to. I do. But…
What if I look weird? What if they notice?
It’s just not like me. I’m not a raise-your-hands kind of girl.
You mean you’re not a praise-the-Lord kind of girl?
Just. Raise. Your. Hands.
Ahhh! It’s not a big deal, but it feels like a big deal!
Isn’t it enough to tap my foot?
Is this song ever going to – oh, good, it’s over now.

Every time.

Now, I know people worship in many different ways. And I’m pretty sure God is just fine with that. After all, He’s the one who created us all so differently. I’m talkative and fairly outgoing, but I’m also what some have called uptight and repressed. (I prefer to say I hold my cards close to my vest, but toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe.) Either way, I don’t typically let my big, important feelings show on the outside – and that includes my deep love and adoration of my Lord.

The product of a small-town, hymn-singing traditional church, it never even occurred to me to raise my hands during worship until I witnessed my friends doing just that in college. In fact, closing my eyes while belting out my favorite songs was as expressive as I got back then – and even that felt out of place.

One Sunday I remember the pastor asking us to sing Amazing Grace. I flipped open my hymnal and promptly shut my eyes and began to sing. When we got to a verse I wasn’t familiar with, I opened my eyes, looked down at my hymnal and realized I was on the wrong page. My friend’s mom was standing next to me, and when she whispered the correct page number, I felt my face burn with embarrassment. Who closes their eyes at church? That’s so weird! Why was I doing that?

I realize now that I was likely the only person who noticed or cared how I worshiped at my hometown church, just like I doubt anyone today is really paying attention to whether or not I raise my hands or clap or tap my foot during worship. Still, I’ve remained afraid of looking weird or wrong during worship all these years.


“Join me in raising your hands as we worship the Lord.”

That day, my internal debate was interrupted by the five-year-old standing next to me. As soon as she saw me notice her raised hands, she wanted to talk about it. “Mommy, why aren’t you holding your hands up? Look! I’m holding up my hands for Jesus! You do it, too, Mommy!”

So for once, I did the thing that my heart often longs to do but feels so awkward and even scary:
I raised my hands.

The specific way we worship isn’t the point. The point is that for years, I’ve ignored the urge to let go and worship the way that feels right to me. I’ve remained content to worship half-heartedly because what everyone else might think was more important than what God has placed in my heart and what I long to say to Him.

For my daughter, though, it was so much simpler than that. She heard the worship leader suggest we raise our hands, she knows that she loves Jesus and wants to express that, and she raised her hands up high. Just like that.

Oh, to be like a child!

Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me,
and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God
like a little child will never enter it.”
Luke 18:16-17

After decades of holding back and arguing with myself and being afraid of what others might think, I learned an important lesson from a five-year-old. Worship isn’t about how I look or doing the right thing or following the rules. It’s simply about responding to God. Just like that.

This certainly isn’t the first time a child has taught me about God (and probably won’t be the last!). Sometimes it seems like being around children is the fastest way to learn – or remember – Truth. Have you ever learned a lesson about God from a child?

  • morningdove

    once my youngest son fell out of their tree fort onto concrete and lay motionless. while i was hysterically running to get my hubby my middle son bent down by his brother and begin to pray. his brother started moving and got up as if nothing had happened. brotherly love in prayer.
    i love being free to worship anyway God leads me to express Him.

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect

      Wow, that’s amazing! My daughter reminds me to pray first, worry second, too.

  • Toni Leake @ The Real-Life of a Growing Christian

    Thank you so much for this. I haven’t had a strong urge to raise my hand but have feared for so long to actually do it.

  • Shelly Wildman

    I totally get this, Mary, but I love your daughter’s response. You’re right–we do need to listen to our kids a little more, especially in this. So precious.

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect

      Yes! Not to say she’s always a font (fount? I can never get this one right.) of wisdom, but sometimes that little brain and little heart see things so much more clearly than mine!

  • Becky Hill

    Through the years as a school bus driver, I have learned a lot from “my” kids about God…here are just a couple…

    “You are kind of my aunt, Becky. In God’s way, we are all brothers and sisters. ~ First grade.

    “Did you know that all the sky and the world are God’s?” ~ PreK

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect

      I love those, Becky! Thank you for sharing!

  • Debbie Raddin

    I have learned through the years that our Father wants us to be open to responding to Him in loving worship and that comes in different ways. Sometimes it is a quiet reflection and other times it is a resounding amen or raising our hands to Him. It is to Him we raise our hands and not to the audience of others. Just respond as He speaks to you.

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect

      Exactly, Debbie – responding to HIM and not others or my own fears is the very thing I’m convicted to do! Thank you for your comment!

  • Christy Fitzwater

    Mary -I’ve had exactly the same experience! But wow has it been great to show on the outside what I feel on the inside. I want people to look at me and SEE how valuable God is to me. Thank you for sharing this!

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect

      Yes – that gets at the heart of what I was trying to say here! I want to be a consistent follower, allowing my outside to reflect my inside!

  • Jayne

    I can very much relate to this. But I also have another perspective. I want to worship as the Lord leads my heart. I dont really like to be ‘told’ to raise my hands or to “shout’ to the Lord. I prefer for the Lord to put that in my heart and to give that desire. Still, it is hard to be willing to do that, for what you said, the fear of what others will think or say.

    I am getting to a place where I’d like to be in corporate worship but behind a private screen….undistracted, without a worry of what others are doing or thinking. Not sure where that might be. ;-)

    • Teresa Ahrenholtz

      I’m the same. I really don’t want to be TOLD to raise my hands (or whatever). I want to feel the move of the Spirit and respond accordingly.

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect

      I understand what you’re saying – and I’d like that private screen, too! I don’t mind when worship leaders encourage us to respond to God; I see that as part of their job. It’s my job to figure out what He’s saying to me – and then to respond accordingly.

  • Amy J.

    Such a great post…thank you. You don’ t know how much I can relate to your words! Just last night I fought this same battle…looking around, seeing the raised hands, feeling the same urge but fighting it for fear of what others might think…putting others before God. Wrong, I know but I think your words will give me just the push I need to let go. Here’s to next week and raising my hands! :)

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect

      Amen to that! :)

  • Heidi

    You know what this post says to me personally? It says, “Are you open to becoming a mother?” The fear has been screaming at me for the past several years, much louder than the hope. But then…how will I know the way a child accepts the kingdom of God unless I allow myself the chance to see it? Being a mother is another form of worship. The fears are related. The hope, the commitment, the courage, I think they are the same.

    Mary, I don’t think you intended this particular message…but I thought I’d share. I guess when you scatter seed, you never really know what will come up. Thank you for the encouragement.

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect

      Heidi, I’m thankful this post spoke to you – and that you shared with us here. Thank you!

  • Beth Williams

    I’ve always been expressive in my emotions, ask my hubby! When we started going to his small church–I had a hard time being expressive me. But, being the person I am I still did my sign language some to Contemporary Christian music.

    Our music director saw me doing and asked me if I would be willing to do sign language to music for our special music. I said yes and now the congregation can’t wait for my turn at special music.

    Still had hard time with hand raising or anything else. Then during Bible study we discussed being “honest worshippers”. It mentioned hand clapping and raising your hands. I tried it a few times and it has caught on a little. Now I have no fear of clapping or raising my hands–I feel it is my way of telling Jesus just how much I love Him!

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect

      Beth, what a cool way to share your worship style and responses to God with the others at your church!

  • Becky Hall

    Thank you so much for this! What a beautiful reminder of the way our children can lead us closer to the Lord.

    Our hands are one of the most active parts of our bodies, especially as mothers. Why shouldn’t they be active in our worship? Just a thought… :)

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect

      Becky, that’s a great point. Thanks for sharing!

  • Wanda

    Tis is a resonating post. During the ’80s my husband and I belonged to a Catholic Charismatic group who raised hands during music and even spoke in tongues . For me the speaking n tongues, which I received from the Holy Spirit was easy, but raising hands during music was hard. Figure?

    We still are close to these people, although our group disbanded after many moved away. I pray that as I focus on my year word, Renew, I may finally be able to lift those hands, although they are much a older hands today!

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect

      Renew is a great word – I love how you’re putting it to use even in this!

  • Teresa Kroeker

    Thank you too for this message. I used to raise my hands during worship, but have quit completely as my husband has been a regular attender with me. We both have been believers for a couple decades but his work kept him away from sitting with me as he was on call. So we came to church in separate cars, and he would sit in the back of the church ready to leave if he got called out. I felt quite free to raise my hands and that all changed when his position gave him more free weekends.

    I guess I’m struggling with what he thinks of raising hands during worship from a comment he made about others worshiping in a way that is distracting to him. I know that shouldn’t matter and I have to get over my fear of rejection. And realize he isn’t even aware of what I’m feeling. Plus he doesn’t get the feelings thing women experience.

    I love him dearly and know he loves me too, we’re just on different pages in regards to worship.

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect

      Interesting that your husband’s presence is holding you back. I’m thankful you’re able to worship together now and pray you can feel confidence to respond to the Lord however He calls you!

  • melinda

    You can learn a great deal about forgiveness from children. Giving or receiving it comes much easier to them.

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect

      Oh yes, my daughter teaches me much in this area, too!

  • beth willis miller

    Mary, love your open, honest, transparent post…so true…i feel most child-like when i keep my eyes on Jesus…even in a worship service…looking up to the ceiling and seeing Him beyond…singing to Him…my hands are drawn up naturally in praise…

  • Del Marie Riley

    Everyone worships their own way. My fear wasn’t so much about raising my hands, it’s about how horrible I sound when I’m singing. But I’ve gotten to a point where I just don’t care what others think. God gave me the voice I have and I’m going to use it to worship Him. On or (way) off key. There are times I will raise both hands, shut my eyes, and sway back and forth. Or I’ll only raise just one with the other on my heart. Either way, how you worship is between you and Jesus.

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect

      I have a friend who is self-conscious about her singing voice, too – and it’s so encouraging to worship next to her as she shouts to the Lord!

  • RaZella

    Thank you so much for sharing your story here. I am always amazed and humbled by the Faith of children, and I often long to have Faith like a child. I also have that same problem when it comes to worship. The internet struggle of what I should do vs. what the Lord is calling out to me to do. I think next time I feel that overwhelming rush of love for my Savior, instead of allowing myself to get in the way, I’m going to take a lesson from your daughter and you and just raise my hands!

  • Laura Gorman

    Wow.. so if you don’t raise your hands- it’s half hearted worship? Silliness- there’s no wrong or right way to worship. It’s between the worshiper and God. God looks at the heart, not the outward appearance.

    But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
    1 Samuel 16:7

    • Amy @ Finer Things

      I don’t think that’s what Mary’s saying. I never (ever EVER) raise my hands during worship, and if I find myself in a church where it’s suggested that we do… I likely won’t be going back to that church. ;) Major uncomfortable. No desire.

      Does that make me half-hearted? A lesser Christian? Nope! (and thank goodness!) :)

      • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect

        Thanks, Amy. You’re right – I definitely didn’t mean to imply at all that believers who don’t raise their hands are wrong. I only meant that I was wrong. I also believe that God is honored and praised in many styles of worship – hands up, hands down, etc. – and I’m thankful we have the freedom to choose.

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect

      No, Laura, that’s not what I meant at all. I was simply writing about my own experience – and the way I’ve ignored God’s promptings out of fear of what other people think. God has made each of us different – and that includes our style of worship. But for me, worshiping without responding to him physically (by raising my hands) was not full-hearted worship.

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  • Kelly Blackwell

    That was lovely. Raising my hands in praise has never been an issue for me, but going right out and sharing my love for the Lord person to person is another story, yet my nephew just bolts out and tells people all the time that Jesus loves them. I so love his open heart and sweet spirit.

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect

      Kids are amazing, aren’t they? I long for that freedom and conviction!

  • Karen Fawcette

    perfect timing… I too am one of those ‘don’t tell me how to worship’ kind of girls… I went to a church for awhile where EVERYBODY did it and I felt awkward, so I did it — sometimes, but it did not feel like I was worshiping, it felt like I was ‘fitting in’. Then I went to a church where they didn’t do that — and for some reason I felt like it there! Now I’ve chosen to express myself however I feel led and most often it is not with my hands way up in the air, as though He is out of reach… but I keep my hands open near me, and sometimes just on my heart… BUT I did take my grandson to church last week — and mind you he is only 14 months old… but he clapped after every song and I didn’t realize he was watching the worship leader, who routinely raised a hand during a song — and my grandson raised his hand up too!! I thought, that’s the best! How a child worships so spontaneously… of course, he may have been mimicking, I know, but he enjoyed it so very much that I’d like to believe that time meant something even to one as young as he… :-)

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect

      Awww, I love that story about your grandson! And while I don’t mind being “told what to do” during worship, I’m with you. Sometimes I feel like it; sometimes I don’t I’m thankful we serve a God who allows us to choose.

  • KimH

    When I became a member of a church that praises God in that way, I was a little self-conscious at first.. but once I let go & just followed the Spirit I never turned back.. To this day I’ve been known in secular worlds to lift my hands in praise and dont think a thing about it.. Sometimes people will give me a funny look but I just laugh out loud.. Its a part of me and I dont apologize for it… its a beautiful expression and one that I love.

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect

      That’s awesome, Kim! Thank you for sharing with us!

  • Arian

    Awesome, thanks for sharing!!! I really needed to read this, it sounds just like me.

  • http://blessedtobecaleb' Lauren

    A few years ago my now 10 year old loved the song “Days of Elijah”. He would make me play it over and over again in the vehicle, and he’d say, “Now you raise your hands, Mommy, and pretend to be Dr. Kim” (our worship leader). One day, while listening to that song, we were in a wreck (I’ll go ahead and say that my hands were NOT raised but firmly planted on the steering wheel when someone pulled out in front of us. Caleb’s reaction? “Mama, I’m glad we were listening to that Jesus music, aren’t you?”
    And… I close my eyes in worship, too =)
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect

      Wow! From the mouths of babes…!

  • Alyson

    It’s o.k. if worship leaders invite you to raise your hands, or clap etc. if you want to, but when they keep urging people to do so, they have taken away your freedom, and you are now only doing it to please people, not God, and that’s wrong. No one should be compelled to do something they don’t feel comfortable with. Sure, I get the childlike illustration, and we sometimes need to break out of our shell and let go of our inhibitions, but at the prompting of the Spirit, not people.

    • Mary

      And the children will lead them.

    • Amy @ Finer Things

      Yes, Alyson! I have felt SO uncomfortable in churches before, like I was LESS because I wasn’t waving my hands all over the place. Ick. (It goes both ways, I suppose. ;) )

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect

      Absolutely, we should follow the prompting of the Spirit. My point was really that by being afraid of what other people thought, I wasn’t. I’m thankful that He made us all different, including our styles of worship!

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  • Mary

    YES! We were in a nursing home, my 2 yr old(now 33) & I, he went around to everyone, sat on their laps, said “hi” and I thought to myself WOW, I didn’t even like going into a nursing home. I think about that oftem yet to this day.

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect

      Yes, my daughter reminds me to be more loving all.the.time!

  • Julie

    This is exactly where I’m at. I don’t like showing my feelings in public. But God has different plans for me! I’ve been shown that I’m holding back, I’m trying to be in control, and God wants me to surrender to Him, so that He can be in control! He’s even touched my heart so much during church that tears just stream down my face. And that’s super uncomfortable for a person like me who doesn’t want to show my feelings in public. But I am in full surrender mode and if the person next to me, or behind me, thinks I’m weird or my life is a mess, it’s true. My life is a mess without God! NO MORE HOLDING BACK! I’m giving God my ALL!!!

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect

      Control is a lot of this issue, isn’t it? And (of course), control is a lot of what I struggle with!

  • Kristin

    Pretty sure I could have written nearly every word of this, especially the ones about the reluctance to hold up your hands. You mentioned the key though: Surrender. That’s what it’s about, and that’s why I’m reluctant. But, goodness, what a relief surrendering always ends up being, whether you’re holding up your hands, giving away things and time, or sacrificing what you planned for the day because God led you somewhere else. And by “you,” I mean, “me.”

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect

      Yes, yes. Surrender is so sweet when we finally (why do we wait so long?) give in!

  • LeahS.

    I feel the same way! Growing up in a very conservative church, never really fostered the idea of following the Spirit and worshiping freely.
    I still feel scared but always feel the nudge of the holy spirit to raise my hands in worship. Maybe that can be one of my spiritual goals this year.
    Thanks for this post!

  • Zoe

    There was a time when that was me too, I remember that feeling of wanting to but being somehow afraid. Now this is me in worship: couldn’t be more different huh?

  • LaDonna

    The childlike example has been on my mind very much lately, though not in regard to hand raising. I think that is so personal. Personally, I used to jump right in, but after hearing a message, which was actually encouraging the men to lead in this area if they felt prompted to, that caused me to examine the scriptures on that subject, I realized there is a fine line that can be crossed with regard to spiritual arrogance and leading (or that perception) where I shouldn’t when my husband is much more reserved, especially since most of the scriptures on the subject of hand raising are addressed to men. God knows the state of my heart, whether my hands or raised or whether I am bowed or kneeling or whatever. And those postures are even more humbling! But the child like examples that have been on my heart lately are in the areas of forgiveness, love, trust and joy. I have much to learn from a child there!

  • Rochelle

    Ooooo I LOVE this!!!! I’m sure wishing I’d read this before rambling on your blog, LOL! This is a truly great post, and a good reminder to all of us. Not just of worshiping freely, but of the ways we learn things from children and from the Lord. Love it!!!!

  • Jennifer

    I have learned that the reason God gave me children, was so they could teach ME! Teach me to love unconditionally, to be humble, to trust, to surrender, to obey, to be truthful, and to come to Jesus like a child. Amen!
    Lysa, you could write a book on what we learn from children…

  • Lis

    Beautiful post.

    I know I have many experiences of a child teaching me about God, but of course am spacing out right now. But children really keep it simple. And it’s important to follow their lead on that. We (Us?) adults make it so much more complicated than it should be.

  • Angela Free

    Hi, Mary! Thank you SO much for this testimony / story about how God set you free to lift your hands to Him and worship Him in total abandon. This, too, is the cry of my heart — that others would find this same freedom in worship. Several years ago, I experienced a similar situation, in which God began to move upon my heart to worship Him though “creative movement” such as sign language and dance. This journey toward child-like praise has been a wonderful and exciting one, and has led to further ministry in helping others become uninhibited in their response to God. You might enjoy looking at my newly developed website ( to read more about it! I plan to add some instructional videos on how to worship through sign language and basic dance. Please check it out! And, THANK YOU so much for your inspiration!!

  • Angela Free

    Hi, Mary! Thank you SO much for this testimony / story about how God set you free to lift your hands to Him and worship Him in total abandon. This, too, is the cry of my heart — that others would find this same freedom in worship. Several years ago, I experienced a similar situation, in which God began to move upon my heart to worship Him though “creative movement” such as sign language and dance. This journey toward child-like praise has been a wonderful and exciting one, and has led to further ministry in helping others become uninhibited in their response to God. You might enjoy looking at my newly developed website ( to read more about it! I plan to add some instructional videos on how to worship through sign language and basic dance. Please check it out! And, THANK

  • Angela Free

    P.S. Sorry for sending two comments! I noticed I made a typo on my website on the first post. Hope you are able to access it through the second one! Blessings! Angela Free

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